TODAY is rugby league’s D-day – D for decision, dithering or disaster.
The game will undergo what many feel is much-needed change or find itself mired in civil war.
On one side, 11 of Super League’s 12 clubs who hope a new structure is agreed at today’s EGM of the game’s council.
On the other, naysayers who feel the plans to ditch the Super 8s and Qualifiers in favour of one up-one down and a top-five play-off plus new funding rules beyond 2021, which they fear will see Championship and League One clubs lose out completely, is nothing but a power and money grab.
SunSport knows one of the clubs looking to enter the third tier in 2020, believed to be Manchester Rangers, will pull out if the plan proposed by Super League chief executive Robert Elstone goes through.
If it does not, the entire Rugby Football League board, including recently appointed chief executive Ralph Rimmer, will be under pressure to quit.
And opponents – led by a group involving part-time Batley, whose average gate this Championship season was 1,082, Bradford and York, who have had serious money issues in the past two years, Featherstone, who are currently going through a severe cost-cutting exercise and Dewsbury, whose average in the opening 23 rounds was 1,001 – hit out ahead of today’s crunch talks.
SunSport also understands York have received a hefty sum of cash from Super League Hull KR as part of a dual registration agreement.
Nonetheless, that did not stop them fighting as Batley’s Kevin Nicholas claimed a top-flight side threatened to pull a similar deal.
He said: “A Championship club has been told if they don’t vote in favour of the proposal, there will be no dual-reg and they will not be able to share training facilities. To me that is sinking pretty low.”
Sources expect the Super League plan to go through but the bitterness will not subside, especially when the next TV deal is negotiated in 2021 as opponents produced figures they claimed show how their handout will be affected.
Super League has threatened to breakaway from the RFL if the vote does not go their way. Top flight clubs and Elstone feel the top tier needs to grow to sustain the lower levels, much like the set-up in football.
Opposing Championship and League One clubs, who will then vote on extending to 14 sides just two matches from the end of their season, have all voiced their disagreements to the point of repetition and boredom.
Bradford’s Andrew Chalmers said: “We believe a restoration to a 14-team Super League with automatic one-up, one-down and a second-placed play-off including the 13th-placed club via a Million Pound Game is the correct position.”
*DITCHING the Super 8s and Qualifiers in favour of a one up, one down system
*TOP FIVE clubs go into Play-Offs
*CHAMPIONSHIP grows to 14 clubs from 12
*GUARANTEED funding of the Championship and League One at existing levels until the end of the current TV deal in 2021
*SUBSTANTIAL guarantees of funding from the next TV deal even if the value of the new arrangement is reduced.
“No-one can credibly say that Super League and the game of rugby league in this country has in any way strengthened or improved over the last decade; quite the contrary I’m afraid. Change for the better is needed and without delay.” – St Helens owner Eamonn McManus.
“The only guarantee should the proposals be rejected, is that the RFL and the rest of the game will have to rely solely on its own properties – the Challenge Cup, a modest international calendar and the Championship and League One competitions to fund their respective futures.” – Hull chairman Adam Pearson and Hull KR chairman Neil Hudgell
“Like any competition structure, the current format is not perfect. We believe a restoration to a 14-team Super League with automatic one-up, one-down and a second-placed play-off including the 13th-placed Super League club via a Million Pound Game is the correct position.” – Bradford Bulls owner Andrew Chalmers.
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